Thursday, June 28, 2012
Are grain and bean salads white people food? My husband and I have this conversation a lot, well as often as I make a grain or bean salad. He hates them. And asks me "why, for the hundredth time would anyone want to eat cold beans?"
I tell him cold beans are toothsome and filling on a hot day when you want something cool and are especially nice paired with crunchy bits of fennel or cucumber. He tells me no real Mexican would ever eat cold beans. And this is one of those really funny, awesome conversations you get to have when you've married outside your race.
While flying home from Dallas last week we were waiting in the security line trying to keep our three-year-old from running off and the baby from crying as the line snaked back-and-forth.
Children tend to give strangers the go ahead to strike up conversation so the older couple who had spent the last five minutes politely smiling at the baby finally got up the nerve to ask how old he was. "Five months." I tell them. Referring to the baby's pacifier the woman goes on to tell me in her southern drawl all about her two-year-old granddaughter and her pacifier addiction.
I make some small talk in an attempt to get the conversation to stop and am pretty sure it has come to an end when the husband asks me "So what country are you returning to?" "Did you come here to have your baby?"
Unsure what to make of this question seeing as I am very much a white person with no noticeable accent. I say "I'm from the United States, I am returning to North Dakota." Unless he was referring to the country of Texas, I'm not sure where he would've conjured the notion that we had snuck into the United States five months ago to make my otherwise illegal-alien child ligit.
This is not completely out of the ordinary. I can't tell you how many times I've been in conversation with my husband in public only to be asked by a stranger if he speaks English. Well, I suppose so seeing as that's what we were just doing.
That's just the joy of being Latino in America and as the wife of a Mexican man I get to be privy to such exquisite displays of stupidity. Occasions I otherwise would miss out on in my white world. It is one of the many benefits of being in a bi-racial marriage I get to experience racial profiling and my husband gets to eat cold beans.
Grain and Bean Salad with Pickled Cherry Pepper Vinaigrette
Makes 8-10 servings
3 cups cooked whole grains (such as brown rice, farro, red rice, or barley)
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup chopped, blanched green beans
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 small head fennel, diced
1/2 large English cucumber, seeds removed
4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 sweet pickled cherry peppers, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Combine grains, lentils, green beans, garbanzo beans, fennel, cucumbers and scallions in a large bowl.
2. In a separate medium bowl combine cherry peppers, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive, whisking continuously until all oil has been added. Pour dressing over grain mixture and toss to combine.
3. Chill in refrigerator at least one hour before serving to let flavors meld. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serve cold or room temperature.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
It's hard sometimes living so far away from family. I really prize myself on being self-sufficient, but having kids is basically impossible without a team of at least one other person (sixteen other people is really preferable, if maybe not thirty-two or really one hundred and ten would be good). And that is where your family comes in.
When we were trying to figure out who in the world would come to the frozen depths of North Dakota last winter to watch our daughter while The Professor and I drove the slick highway one hour east to Fargo to deliver our next child we were really at a loss. How easy it would've been if we lived in the same place as at least one family member. "Hey, can you come over here I think I may be having a baby right now."
Lots of people offered but the reality of getting here in late December can be tricky at best. Once we went to Minneapolis on a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip over New Year's Eve—a week later we returned home after they had once again opened the interstate following a 90 car pile up. Ground blizzard is term I was not familiar with until moving here, that's when snow is not necessarily falling from the sky, but blowing around in 40-mile-an-hour wind like a massive, white sand storm, blinding everything in sight.
The Professor's father finally agreed to fly up from Dallas (no interstate travel required). Packed in his suitcase were foot-long quills of fragrant canela or Ceylon cinnamon. This softer, more delicate cinnamon is commonly brewed as a tea or used to add subtle spice to mole sauce, but my first inclination was to steep it with cream and sugar and spin it into ice cream.
The flavor of canela is not as brash and spicy as its hard-bark counterpart so if you are substituting traditional cinnamon use 1 (3-inch) stick instead of 2 (6-inch) sticks called for in the recipe. And don't make the mistake of inviting a bunch of people over to your house for ice cream on the day you made it like I did only to realize that it was the consistency of super-thick créme anglaise and not scoopable ice cream. Mine wasn't truly frozen until the next morning.
Canela Ice Cream
Makes 8 servings
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
2 (6-inch) sticks canela (Ceylon cinnamon) or regular cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg yolks
1. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water and set aside. Combine cream, milk, sugar, canela, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
2. Whisk egg yolks vigorously in a large bowl until foamy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Remove cream mixture from heat and slowly pour about 1 cup into the yolks, whisking constantly.
3. Pour cream-egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until custard coats the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not let it boil.
4. Remove custard from the heat and strain in to a large heatproof bowl. Remove canela from the strainer and return to custard. Place the bowl of custard into the bowl of ice water and chill 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Once the custard is cool, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove canela and freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Most ice cream makers do not freeze the ice cream completely and it will need 4 to 6 hours in the freezer to harden.
Friday, June 8, 2012
I'm throwing in the towel. The baby is not making significant progress and only seems happiest when I'm eating turkey and rice. I tried to add decaf coffee back into my diet and he spent all day grunting and holding his breath until his face was beet red. I've also tried adding onions and garlic only to take them out again after the baby started behaving as if I was intentionally poisoning him in an effort to support my selfish habit of eating like an adult.
We made our first attempt in two months to dine out. I haven't been willing to go until this point out of the sheer depression I will feel as I sit there eating my stinkin' bowl of rice as my husband devours his lacquered short ribs and swills his beer.
We decided the Japanese place was our best bet as surely they have rice there. I ordered an avocado roll and a sweet potato roll. Nothing crazy or on the list of forbidden foods, but the sweet potato inside the roll arrived covered in a crispy tempura crust. A good mother would've taken one look at her infant son, seen the look of horror on his face and pushed the plate aside, but I threw all caution to the wind and thought what the hell.
Well that night was a nice introduction to what hell might be like—endless hours holding an inconsolable, screaming baby who refused to eat. He'd had enough of my carelessness and wasn't going to take it anymore. Feeling tired and defeated I took out the final weapon in my arsenal—the formula. Fearing the worst I fixed him a bottle and he wolfed it down. I fixed a little bit more and he took that down too. After the second bottle he looked up at me, burped and probably wanted to say, "what took you so long lady?" but his English isn't quite there yet.
So that's that, I'm back to eating and he's happy as a clam, well an infant clam who refuses to sleep and suffers bouts of annoyed boredom at 4 o'clock in the morning.
Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup with Salsa Verde
Makes 6 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 leek, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken stock or broth
For the salsa verde:
2 small bunches parsley, minced
4 scallions, minced
2 teaspoons capers, minced
3 tablespoons orange muscat or champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Add leeks and shallots and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until soft and translucent then add celery and cook a couple minutes more. Add garlic, cook another minute more then add squash and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until squash is just beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat until lentils are soft, about 30-40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, you also might need to add more stock if soup seems too thick.
3. While soup is cooking combine all salsa ingredients in a medium bowl. Add a little freshly ground black pepper and add salt if necessary (this will depend on the saltiness of the capers and your tastes).
4. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of salsa verde.